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Gaining a solid client base.


Ashley Dean Myles
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I'm really just venting here, but any input would be much appreciated.

How does one gain a solid client base? I own a film-dedicated production company in Florida. We just shoot film, absolutely no video. Our production quality is high, we own our own equipment including a s16 camera, and the company is co-owned by a talented DP. Our film productions often cost less than most beta or video shoots in our market. For example, we just completed a series of 5 commercials for a client on s16mm for under $18k. Our camera is the only professional film camera in our region. However, we've recently been hearing about another local company (who sub-contracts everything out and is in fact owned by a former dolly grip) that has landed a huge contract for a series of 35mm commercials for a local real estate conglomerate. Here's the kicker, they called us about hiring a crew! We do not hire ourserlves out, except for my co-owner/DP on larger non-local jobs. However, they already have a DP (who is coming in from California and bringing equipment hired from there) and still continue to call us for advice. I feel that it is unfair to the client, as they will be paying well above and beyond what they should be. This really isn't a project they should be tackling, but such is life.

Is there a tactful way to approach this? And does anyone have any advice about marketing a production company that is so specialized? We're really only limited in what we can do by budget (aren't we all?) as we have copious amounts of experience in green-screen work, black and white cinematography, color reversal, etc. etc. etc.

There are so few people who do what we do, especially being film-dedicated. In fact, as far as we've been informed, we're the only film-dedicated production company in Florida. Cinematography is our highest priority and most of our local competition couldn't care less. We have been fortunate to have several clients who are concerned about how their commercials look and are eager to try new and high-concept projects. We do have a high-profile project/client coming up shortly, but it seems like the market is just so complacent and happy with their medicore products. I'm sure that some of you have stories about clients who could just care less about how their end product looks. It's really rather disheartening. Our clients are genuinely surprised when we show up with an 11+ person crew and all of our gear because they are so accustomed to a 1 person videography shoot.

Another problem I've been encountering recently is the number of clients who assume that everything is shot on HD now! Some of them don't even realize that most movies and national commercials are still shot on 35mm. When they see the "Broadcast in HD" logo on their favorite network dramas, they assume that it was also shot in HD. The marketing departments of digital camera manufacturers have really been doing a stellar job. They've got the entire US population brainwashed to think that film is obsolete on all levels. It's a real thrill though when the client sees digital footage side-by-side with our film footage that's been transferred uncompressed 10-bit HD to a hard drive, though. Even the most inexpereinced client can still tell the difference.

I'm really just looking for encouragement and some good advice about how to market ourselves better. We've pretty much tackled everything but a feature film at this point but I'd like to have a larger client base.

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In fact, as far as we've been informed, we're the only film-dedicated production company in Florida.

Having began my career in FL, I can tell you that this is far from the truth. There are many production companies in FL that specialize in film production. Most of them do mostly 35mm though, except for lower budget stuff, where they might do S16, HD, or video.

Your main problem probably stems from the fact that a lot of the work in FL originates in LA or New York and is brought to a production company in FL, not that much work generates there. Also, if you are known as a "low budget" production company, then that is the kind of work you will get. If you always quote low then the big jobs will pass you up when they are shopping around. It's a catch-22 that I've dealt with in the past and I know that many other people and companies have too.

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That's precisely what I mean, Grimmett. We only do 16mm and 35mm film productions, but yet keep attracting these low budget projects that the client wants on video and we turn them away because it's not what we do. I feel like a parrot trying to explain to perspective clients that we do not shoot video nor deal with budgets under $15k. We're located in SW Florida and even the ad agencies don't seem to comprehend the difference, hence my frustration.

I understand that most productions shot in Florida originate out of state, and I'd like some veteran advice on how to market ourselves with this in mind. There aren't exactly a lot of people to ask for advice around here. . .

 

Now it's dark...

 

Ashley Dean

 

Cage XXI Enterprises, Inc.

 

www.cagexxi.com

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The key is getting your product reel into the hands of prospective customers, so they can see the high quality of your work, and hopefully find your style fits their "vision".

 

Althought moving images on your website are possible, the loss of quality and motion artifacts with compression usually are not "your best foot forward". So maybe some really high quality still images (forming a storyboard) with an invitation to get a high quality copy of your product reel.

 

Certainly your website should provide a list of credits and references you are proud of.

 

Some "behind the scenes" photos of your crew at work will let perspective clients them know that high quality usually takes more than a "one man band" with a DV camera.

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I must have been asked for advice about 20 times by guys setting up their own production companies. (I'm not a production company by the way.)

 

My advice is always; take that 100k you want to invest in gear and office space and hire a full time marketing specialist. Pay them 50K a year plus commission, your 100K will keep them on staff for two years.

 

This persons sole job will be to find you clients, and that's it.

 

Any one, and I mean any one, can buy gear and shoot film. That's easy. Rent gear as you need it for your shoots.

 

The tough part is ALWAYS finding clients and keeping an even flow of business. You need to avoid the boom bust cycles that many production companies have. It doesn't matter if you're in New York or Podunk Indiana, getting clients is the hardest part. If you're in NY there may be a lot more clients, but there will also be a lot more competition and established production houses as well.

 

As for recognizing the value of film and its beauty, good luck. When dealing with business people try and see things from their perspective, they are spending THEIR money. They could care less about making a DPs reel look slicker at their expense. Sure local yokel business people are going to be drawn to the lower cost video solution for their commercial over film, they just want to get the message out.

 

Imagine telling Larry, owner of Larry's Used Cars, that you can shoot his commercial on video for $3000.00 or film for $15,000.00. I think he'll take the video option.

 

Now imagine telling the president of Revlon you're going to shoot their next commercial on DV instead of 35mm because it costs so much less. You'd be laughed out of the office! The major companies know the value of 35mm, heck the vast majority won't even touch HD.

 

Selling film work in your market at that price range is going to be a tough slog, you're not the lowest or the most expensive, you're in the middle. I'd pick a place at one end of the spectrum or the other.

 

R,

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  • 4 weeks later...

The advice on getting a full time marketing person is spot on. Someone has to find clients and be very good at selling to them. You should sell your quality and high production values. When these people call up asking for $3,000 shoots bring them into your office show them your reel and ask, "Is this the quality your looking for? It starts at $15,000." If they don't have 15K or don't want to spend it let them go to the network affiliate and get a video+graphics commercial done. They aren't your client.

 

Having said that I'm not a partner in a production company but I've been brought in on production meetings as a consultant when people had to be shown what the real quality difference between formats is and what the costs are.

Edited by J. Lamar King
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